Two private schools in California and Colorado are pointing fingers at each other over the arrest of a high school music teacher on charges of sexual abuse.
Da’Jon James, 28, was arrested July by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office after four students and parents from a private Dawson school reported allegations of sexual abuse, including inappropriate kissing on the forehead of students and caressing.
Earlier that month, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office announced that it had launched an investigation at Cate School in Carpinteria after an authorized on-campus reporter – a person legally required to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities – issued similar allegations regarding James during his service in an elite boarding school.
In a letter sent to community members this week, George P. Moore, Dawson’s head of the school, said the recruitment process for James was “consistent with industry best practices and equal to recruitment for all Dawson employees.” The process, he said, involved interviews with two Cate School employees who “did not mention anything about sexually inappropriate behavior or other inappropriate behavior at Cate School.”
“A background check also showed no criminal history or other red flags,” Moore said.
Prior to joining Dawson, James was Cate’s vocal music director for six months, from fall 2019. Cate school principal Ben Williams said James was fired in February 2020.
Williams said in an email that “two faculty members who are not authorized to speak on behalf of Cate School were called by Dawson employees and explicitly stated that they were not authorized to speak on behalf of the school.”
“In accordance with standard practice, schools that have contacted those authorized to speak on behalf of Cate on staff matters – the head of the school or the assistant head of the school – have been informed of the circumstances of Mr James’ dismissal, ”Williams said. “No school that has contacted Cate school officials has offered a job to Mr. James.”
It was not immediately clear when James was employed by Dawson. School officials did not respond to several requests for comment.
James was “relieved of teaching and removed from campus” on Feb. 4, Moore said in his letter. Moore said he reported the allegations the next day to the Boulder County Child Welfare phone number.
That same month, the District Child Protection Service contacted the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Deputies regarding a possible sexual assault on a student by a teacher. The alleged abuse was reported to have started a month earlier.
“Four female students revealed that they were exposed to inappropriate language, sexually explicit images, prolonged hugs, caresses, inappropriate compliments and inappropriate kissing on the forehead. All the alleged incidents took place on the school property during school hours, ”the sheriff’s office said.
After leaving Dawson, James applied for a music position at Sun Valley Community School in Idaho. James did not mention Dawson in his resume, says Ben Pettit, head of the school.
On April 2, Pettit called Williams at Cate School, who “stated that Mr. James had been fired and was under investigation for possible border problems with students.”
“Which was more than enough for me to decide not to hire Mr. James,” Pettit said.
Boulder County lawmakers arrested James in July for two counts of sexually assaulting a child by a trusted person and one offense of unlawful sexual intercourse.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office released an investigation earlier this month. This investigation is ongoing.
The family of one of the students in Colorado has since filed a lawsuit against Dawson and James, reports Daily newspaper Camera in Boulder. The lawsuit alleges that James inappropriately touched the girl, punched her in the face when he was unhappy with her vocal performance, and began texting her.
In interviews with The Times, several parents and students described Cate as calling them problematic behaviors related to James, who also served as a “parent in the home,” including allegations of prolonged hugs and kisses on the forehead.
One parent described an occasion in which James allegedly made sexual remarks to her daughter and other girls. She said her daughter reported this to Cate’s caregivers in November 2019.
The parent, who asked not to be identified, described his frustration while reading Dawson’s letter. She wondered, “when and if Cate School will ever acknowledge responsibility for their mishandling of this case or if they are trying to avoid legal liability.”
Parents, alumni, and students have been waiting for months for Cate to publish the findings of an internal investigation launched in October 2020 after former students filed allegations of “sexual abuse involving faculty members and students that occurred some time ago. decades “.
“I’m outraged again,” the parent said. “We’re sitting in the dark again … is Dawson School covering its ass? Does Cate cover their ass? Where is the truth? I do not know.”